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Lack of info on China’s COVID-19 surge stirs global concern

BEIJING (AP) — Moves by several countries to require COVID-19 testing for passengers arriving from China reflect global concerns that new variants may emerge Amid the ongoing explosive outbreak – and governments may not notify the rest of the world quickly enough.

So far, no new variants have been reported, but China has been accused of not publicizing the virus since it first surfaced in late 2019. Strains that can cause new outbreaks elsewhere.

The United States, Japan, India, South Korea, Taiwan and Italy have announced testing requirements for passengers from China.Cited by the United States Both the surge in infections and what it said was a lack of information, including genome sequencing of the domestic virus strain.

Authorities in Taiwan and Japan expressed similar concerns.

“Currently, the pandemic situation in China is not transparent,” Wang Pei Sheng, head of Taiwan’s epidemic command center, told The Associated Press. “We have a very limited grasp of that information and it’s not very accurate.”

Taiwan will begin testing everyone arriving from China on January 1st. This is because about 30,000 Taiwanese are expected to return home for the Lunar New Year holidays in late January. New Japanese rules restricting flights from mainland China, Hong Kong and Macau to specified airports from Friday have already disrupted vacation travel plans.

China’s foreign ministry spokesman Wang Wenbin said Thursday that many countries have not changed their policies for Chinese tourists, and any measures should treat people from all countries equally. said.

The coronavirus can mutate with each new infection and is spreading rapidly in China. Scientists can’t say if that means the surge will unleash new mutants into the world – but they’re worried it might happen.

Chinese health officials have said the current outbreak is caused by a version of the omicron variant that has also been detected elsewhere, and have sent surveillance systems to identify potentially worrying new versions of the virus. is set. Wu Zunyou, chief epidemiologist at the Chinese Center for Disease Control, said Thursday that China has always reported the virus strains it finds in a timely manner.

“We keep nothing secret,” he said. “All work is shared with the world.”

Italy’s health minister told the Senate that sequencing showed that a variant detected in a passenger arriving from China was already circulating in Europe. “This is the most important and heartening news,” said Olazio Schiracci.

This is in line with what the European Union Executive has said. EU refrained from following member-state Italy on Thursday We have mandated testing for visitors from China and are assessing the situation.

More broadly, World Health Organization Director-General Tedros Adhanom Ghebreyesus said the body needs more information “To conduct a comprehensive risk assessment of the situation on the ground” of the severity of the outbreak in China, particularly hospital and ICU admissions.

China rolled back many of its tough pandemic restrictions It has allowed the virus to spread rapidly in a country that has had relatively few infections since its first devastating outbreak in the city of Wuhan earlier this month. Long lines are forming and emergency rooms are overcrowded, keeping patients away. Cremations have multiplied, with overburdened funeral homes in one city asking families to postpone funerals until next month.

China’s state media has not widely covered the impact of the surge, and government officials have accused Western media of hyping the situation.

The outraged global concern is a direct result of the ruling Communist Party’s sudden departure from some of the world’s toughest antivirus policies, said Miles Yu, director of the Hudson Institute’s China Center. said Mr. Washington.

“The madness of a ‘COVID-zero’ lockdown cannot be carried out for such a long period of time … and suddenly we will unleash a large number of infected people around the world from the imprisoned China,” emailed.

Dr. David Dowdy, an infectious disease expert at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, said the U.S. move was not so much about stopping the new strain from entering China as it was about encouraging China to share more information. said it may be due to pressure on

China has been accused of covering up its domestic virus situation. AP survey has frustrated WHO officials by discovering that the government had withheld the virus’s genetic code for more than a week after it was decoded.

The government also strictly controls Dissemination of Chinese research on the virus, hindering cooperation with international scientists.

Research into the origin of the virus has also stalled. A WHO expert group said in this year’s report: It said it lacked “important data” on how the pandemic started and needed more detailed investigation.

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Wu reported from Taipei, Taiwan. Associated Press journalists Geir Moulson in Berlin, Colleen Barry in Milan, Carla K. Johnson in Seattle, Kanis Leung in Hong Kong, and Liu Zheng, a video producer in Beijing, contributed.